My Versatility Responsibility 2.0

I would've preferred congrats from Bert, but it'll do.
I would’ve preferred Bert on my napkins, but I suppose this will have to do.

I don’t usually do blog awards. It’s not that don’t appreciate receiving them – because I do — I just don’t think I update my blog frequently enough to dedicate posts to answering questions about myself. So a big part of me is inclined to thank the nominator and beg off.

But sometimes another part of me — the part who doesn’t have a new post ready this week — is inclined to say, “Hey, why not?”

That “Hey, why not?” inclination is also more likely to surface when some of my favorite people nominate me. Laurel Leigh and Jilanne Hoffman selected me for the Versatile Blogger Award and Tess from Let’s Cut the Crap nominated me for a blog meme.

Versatile Blogger nominees are supposed to write seven tidbits about themselves. The meme-ers are supposed to answer four specific questions about their writing.

Since answering a question about my writing is sort of a tidbit, I answered Tess’s four questions and tacked on three extra tidbits at the end. Done and done!

By the way, if the above didn’t spell it out clearly enough, I think very highly of these folks. Follow their blogs if you don’t already. They’re good people who all have interesting things to say.

Onward with the meme-ing!


What am I working on at the moment?

I have three projects I’m working on right now:

I am revising a picture book manuscript about a science-minded mouse.

I am revising a picture book manuscript about a cow that is not exactly a cow.

And, using my Susanna Hill writing contest entry, Goldilockup, as inspiration, I am writing a middle grade novel about a Great Escape-style jailbreak in Fairy Tale Forest. The story’s hero works the broiler at a Burger King.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Most writers are peculiar, but each peculiar person is peculiar in a unique way. Those unique peculiarities influence the work. For example, Laurie Halse Anderson and I both wrote picture books about Sarah Josepha Hale. Anderson’s book came out long before mine, but I had no knowledge of its existence when I wrote my story. Even though Anderson and I wrote about the same person, our two books could not be more different in both tone and content.

In other words, if you own Anderson’s book but not mine, buy mine, too. It’s different!

Why do I write what I do?

I used to write a lot of plays. I enjoyed writing them, and found some success. The problem was that I was drawn to flawed, cynical and occasionally immoral characters, which made me delve into the darker side of my soul — a sad and musty place in desperate need of a coat of paint a more comfortable place to sit.

I prefer my silly soul. Writing children’s books nurtures my silliness. And school visits bring out my silliness in spades.

How does my writing process work?

My writing schedule is not as regimented as I would like. I do, however, always put aside a good chunk of time every weekend to write. I also find time to write a couple of nights each workweek. Sometimes, if there’s a lull in my day job schedule, I’ll write a little then, too.

But let’s just keep that information between us, OK?

I almost exclusively compose on the computer. I do, however, sometimes write out ideas in longhand. I often doodle for inspiration. Sometimes I doodle during meetings, because meetings are useless.

Ahem. Let’s just keep that information between us, too, OK?

In fact, let’s pretend I never answered this question.

And, as promised, three other tidbits:

1. When my son is disciplined for saying something inappropriate in school, he is almost always repeating something I had said at home. No, he is not swearing; I never use foul language around children. He did, however, called one of his classmates a “sucker.” He announced that a daunting classroom assignment “will drive him to drink.” And, the day before his winter break, he decreed that The Elf on the Shelf story was “horse pucky.”

Despite all the teacher’s phone calls, I’m still not very good at censoring myself. I recently told Alex the story about how Archimedes developed his principle of buoyancy while sitting in the bathtub. I explained that Archimedes was so excited with his discovery that he leapt from the tub and ran through the streets naked, shouting, “Eureka! I’ve got it!”

“And do you know what Archimedes’ neighbors said?” I asked.

“No.” Alex replied.

“Archimedes! I can see your dingle!”

Alex then laughed for the next six hours.

So, yes, I expect to get a call from my son’s teacher sometime this week.

"Whasamatter? Jealous?" -- Archimedes, after being handed a towel
“Hey, I got it, so I flaunt it!”

2. When I was a freshman in college, I was in a drawing class filled with artists who got offended by everything. This was the late 1980s, the dawn of the PC era where short people were described as “vertically challenged” and lazy people were “differently motivated.” I tend not to seek out things that make me angry, so I found their zealous, relentless ire fascinating. I also found it amusing.

I occasionally liked to poke the hornet’s next. For example, one day I decided to sketch a giant, reverential portrait of Richard Nixon. It produced the expected outrage (“How could you draw a portrait of that…that monster!”) and I was amused.

About a year later, I was working in a local bookstore when Nixon’s book, In the Arena, was published. Nixon’s office was located just a few towns away from where I lived, so I was asked to drop off a box of books for the former president to sign. I did as I was told. I  also brought along my portrait bearing a note: “Could you please sign this?” He could and  did.

About 15 years later, Antiques Roadshow came to Atlantic City so I decided to bring along my signed Nixon portrait for an appraisal. In case you’re wondering, a Nixon/Allegra collaboration is worth about a thousand bucks.

Not too shabby.

You think you're so hot, eh? Well, I don't see Mike Allegra drawing a picture of you!
“You think you’re so hot, eh? Well, I don’t see Mike Allegra drawing a picture of you!”

3. My wife, Ellen, is one of the most moral and honest people I know. However, I live in constant fear that one day I’ll come home from work to discover that she has kidnapped a wombat from an area zoo.

Believe me, she loves wombats more than most people love wombats — and I’m worried that this love will someday give her a rap sheet. Pray for us!

Take me home, Ellen! All I need is your looooove!
“Take me home, Ellen! All I need is your looooove!”


So there you have it! Thanks again, Laurel, Jilanne and Tess! And thanks also to all the other people who have nominated me for blog awards in the past. I am very grateful.

So, in the spirit of this post, tell me a tidbit about yourself in the comments! C’mon, be a sport. 

E-citing News!

If you don't win it, you should buy it.

Sarah Josepha Hale and I have quite a few things in common. 

Sarah wrote to support her family. So do I!

Sarah was a magazine editor. So am I!

Sarah never owned a Kindle. Neither do I!

That means that neither Sarah nor I have any idea how Sarah Gives Thanks looks on that itty bitty e-book screen. But I’m sure it looks awesome.

That’s my Big News! After a year-and-a-half of saying, “No, Sarah Gives Thanks is NOT available as an e-book,” that is no longer the case! So, hey, if you’re into that sort of thing, there you go!

As for me, I like all my books printed on paper. Why, you ask? Because I am a cantankerous, change-averse, old goat.

Self portrait.
Self portrait.

But, despite my inherent goatiness, I am happy that there is a much cheaper version of my book out there. Whatever encourages more people to learn about Sarah Josepha Hale is always OK by me.

I am certain that Sarah  — with whom I share so much in common — would feel the same way.

"I enthusiastically endorse this service or product."  -- Sarah Josepha Hale
“Sure. Whatever.” — Sarah Josepha Hale


Five Irrelevant Questions for David Gardner

David Gardner, or as I like to call him, Mr. Awesome.
David Gardner, or as I like to call him, Mr. Awesome.

Thanksgiving is upon us, so I thought it would be fun to interview the wonderful illustrator of Sarah Gives Thanks, David Gardner!

This plan’s only snag is that I had already interviewed him last year.

So instead of asking David about the book or his profession, I thought I’d come up with questions that had nothing to do with anything. Enjoy!


You have 30 minutes to prepare for the coming zombie apocalypse. How would you use this time?

I’d start by saying the Serenity Prayer repeatedly. Once I accepted the idea that this was one of those “things I cannot change,” I’d look around and see what I was leaving undone. (Unlike Brad Pitt, I’m not prone to feel I have much power to overcome a bunch of zombies.)

I’d realize that 30 minutes isn’t long enough to finish revising my Great American Novel, so I’d call my sisters and my friends and tell them I love them. I’d hug my partner and our dogs close and tell them I love them, too. Then I’d insist we watch the Chuckles the Clown’s funeral episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show for the last time. It’s best to go out laughing.


You are given the chance to yell at any historical figure. Who would you choose and what would you say?

Millard Fillmore. I’d shout, “What are you, crazy?! Would it kill you to listen to that nice Mrs. Hale and declare Thanksgiving a national holiday? What have you got to lose? Nobody’s gonna remember your presidency, anyway.”

My gal.

Which extinct animal would you keep as a pet?

Saber-toothed tiger. That should protect me against the coming zombie apocalypse.

But – could I get somebody else to clean the litter box? Is Wilma Flintstone included in this deal?

If you could have a small speaking part (one to three lines) in any motion picture, which movie and role would you select?

The Butler. I’d be great playing Oprah’s white love child. I’d even let her slap me.

God grants you a one-question interview. Which mystery of the universe would you solve?

I’d want to know: Is life really a big classroom? Are we here to learn and evolve into more loving men and women, or are we here to just enjoy life?

I’m guessing this would happen after the zombie thing, so hopefully I won’t regret the half-hour I spent watching Chuckles the Clown.


Now it’s your turn! Leave me an answer to any one of these questions in the comment section! I do so love your comments.

And happy Thanksgiving everyone!